On all the boards
Welcome to the Burgundy Canal!

My name is Léa and I am a seasonal lock-keeper!
Take a look at my logbook and come along with me for a canal adventure the whole of its 242-kilometre length. It’s a real masterpiece of civil engineering as well as one of the loveliest ways to get from the Channel to the Mediterranean!
Meet me at every noticeboard by the canal. Have a great time exploring!

A strong character!

The Burgundy Canal may look serene and peaceful but don’t be fooled! Beneath its apparent tranquillity it hides a strong, tenacious character!

For it to see the light of day, it took time, money, countless feats of technical wizardry and the tireless work of many men.

Since its engineer, Joseph Abeille, drew up the route in 1725, it took:

50 years to pay for it – from 1725 to 1775

58 years to build it – from 1775 to 1833

To solve the problems of supply, water divide and regulating the flow they needed to:

Build a 3.3 km tunnel at Pouilly-en-Auxois

Construct 6 reservoirs and a huge number of other works to manage the supply

To get it to make the 378-metre climb it required:

Locks and more locks – 189 altogether!

Then they added 30 ports and 224 houses.

So much construction for the transportation of goods, for commerce and industry!

Now, the activity of the past is long gone, displaced by the railway and motorway, and the canal has become a place for leisure with a cycle path along the old towpath and a whole range of leisure activities on offer along its banks, especially fishing, and opportunities for gourmet breaks; you can also go swimming in certain stretches of the water.

In 1882, at the Creusot cutting

Léa meets Prince, a working canal horse

Neighhhhh… Yes, I am the horse who pulls the boats through the cutting! There are nine cuttings in Côte-d’Or! They help reduce the number of locks and lower the level the water has to reach. Look carefully, there are two towpaths. The higher level is 9 metres higher than the canal! If a horse suffers from vertigo, it’s really hard to pull the boat from up there! Even if the cutting was dug out by ‘The deserters’ workforce from the hard labour prison in Toulon’ around 1820, I still refuse to work in such conditions! Fortunately, last year everything was extended and the lower level was made 4 metres wide so horses could use it. Now it’s a pleasure to walk along this bank. You can see perfectly who’s coming because it’s a straight line, 1130 metres long, and my owner can pass another boat with no problem, you just have to stand back in the space provided.

Of course, all that involved rebuilding the bridge so the road could pass over it! But as far as I’m concerned, I don’t get dizzy anymore and I can look at the Saint-Thibault Priory as I walk along!

The castle and collegiate church of Thil – Butte de Thil (Mound of Thil)

On the Mound of Thil, the ruins of one of the oldest castles in France dominate the valley. With its 27-metre high watchtower, the fortress is known as ‘the Auxois Sentinel’. Opposite the mound, linked to the castle by an avenue of lime trees, Jean de Thil had a fortified collegiate church built in 1340. Now you can enjoy entertainments at the castle and admire the exceptional view.

The Sainte-Apolline Chapel in Brianny

Very small and simple, this chapel houses a remarkable ‘danse macabre’ dated 1510. This painting covers all the walls and shows 32 characters, 16 men and 16 women ‘dancing’ with their own skeleton which is dragging them towards death.

That is our common destiny, whatever our social status, so the characters represent all classes in society, with men ranging from the Pope to a farmer and women from a duchess to a madwoman.

The Priory of Saint-Thibault

The Priory has the surprising look of a Gothic cathedral set down in the countryside. It was built to honour the remains of Saint Thibault, and became an important place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. Its choir is unique in Burgundy, and dates from the end of the thirteenth century. All in white stone and full of light, the 27-metre high building delights the faithful and tourists alike. The sculptures on the north door, the chapel of Saint-Gilles and the shrine of Saint-Thibault are equally remarkable.

The Pont-et-Massène reservoir

Built in 1882 to supply the Burgundy Canal, it helps avoid flooding. Nowadays, its water is highly filtered to provide drinking water to supply around 80 villages. The lake has been made into a leisure centre where visitors can enjoy a wealth of beautiful views, a beach, boats for hire and a 12 km walking trail.


1724 A canal project is agreed after much deliberation concerning the route

1775 Work begins on both banks

1826-1832 Pouilly tunnel is dug out

1833 The whole canal is opened to traffic

1872-1882 Standardised to Freycinet gauge (lengthening of the lock chambers)

Nineteenth century The industrial boom

Twentieth century Gradual transition from industry and commerce to tourism and leisure

2010 Creation of the cycle path

Nowadays you can travel on the water for pleasure or enjoy cycling along the cycle path that follows the old towpath. It’s an ideal opportunity to discover the wealth of our heritage as you explore!